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  • Provenance

    Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
    Private collection, acquired from the above in 1968

  • Catalogue Essay

    Tom Wesselmann’s sensual body of work appeals to our pleasure principles, particularly through his seductive portrayal of the modern female form. Though at times cartoonish, the subject matter of his art provokes the viewer with its lively color and erotic energy. Study for Marilyn’s Mouth, 1967, embraces sexual iconography of popular culture, with Marilyn Monroe as the ultimate embodiment. Not the only Pop Artist interested in Monroe as a sex symbol, Wesselmann evinces a fascination with her lascivious beauty and her Hollywood celebrity status.

    Study for Marilyn’s Mouth, 1967, is part of Wesselmann’s larger Mouth series (1965), and signals a narrowing in Wesselmann’s compositional focus to a more daring, single figure. Wesselmann used this same detail in simultaneously developing his Smoker Study, a series of works that would become one of the most recurrent themes in the 1970s. Both series revel in the provocative nature of oral fascination. However, in Study for Marilyn’s Mouth, 1967, Marilyn Monroe’s platinum blond tresses splay across the lusciously full, heart-shaped lips, distinguishing it in its voluptuousness.

    Wesselmann’s representational paintings and collages are deeply rooted in art historical subject matter, including still lifes, interiors, and nudes. Wesselmann’s reverence of Henri Matisse is apparent in the similarities between Study for Marilyn’s Mouth, 1967, and Matisse’s own love affair with color in his fauvist masterpieces. Much like Matisse’s greatest works, Study for Marilyn’s Mouth, 1967, focuses on human form, and uses Matisse’s unique cutout method and vibrant coloring on a white background to create a dramatic, light-filled effect.

  • Artist Biography

    Tom Wesselmann

    American • 1931 - 2004

    As a former cartoonist and leading figure of the Pop Art movement, Tom Wesselmann spent many years of his life repurposing popular imagery to produce small to large-scale works that burst with color. Active at a time when artists were moving away from the realism of figurative painting and growing increasingly interested in abstraction, Wesselmann opted for an antithetical approach: He took elements of city life that were both sensual and practical and represented them in a way that mirrored Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol's own methodologies.

    Wesselmann considered pop culture objects as exclusively visual elements and incorporated them in his works as pure containers of bold color. This color palette became the foundation for his now-iconic suggestive figurative canvases, often depicting reclining nudes or women's lips balancing a cigarette.

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Study for Marilyn’s Mouth

graphite and oil on canvas
12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Signed, titled and dated “STUDY FOR MARILYN’S MOUTH, Wesselmann 67” on the stretcher.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $290,500

Contemporary Art Part I

7 November 2011
New York